Most of Hazara schools destroyed in 2005 quake awaiting reconstruction

Published October 8, 2015
Students of a government primary school attend class outside a tent in Balakot provided by Unicef. The school building was destroyed in the 2005 earthquake. — Online
Students of a government primary school attend class outside a tent in Balakot provided by Unicef. The school building was destroyed in the 2005 earthquake. — Online

PESHAWAR: As a decade of the devastating earthquake, which had left several areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in ruins, will complete today (Thursday), the federal and provincial governments have yet to reconstruct around 2,000 of the total 3,669 destroyed educational institutions in Hazara Division.

In absence of proper buildings, thousands of students of such schools have been getting education for 10 years in the environment not fit for education, according to education department officials and an educationist.

They said the students of many schools had been getting education under the open sky.

According to the officials, a total of 3,669 schools and colleges were completely damaged in the earthquake.

Thousands of students distressed due to absence of proper buildings

Of them, only 1,605 have been reconstructed by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority until now.

Of the total damaged educational institutions, the Erra was responsible for the reconstruction of 2909 institutions while it had refused to reconstruct 760 schools because such schools were demolished after the Erra’s survey completion about the destroyed infrastructure.

Finally, after eight years, the provincial government allocated Rs4.6 billion in the budget for 2014-15 for the reconstruction of 760 schools, which were partially damaged but demolished at that time by the authorities responsible for removing the debris.

The Erra officials said tendering for the reconstruction of 760 schools had been completed and that work in it would begin within weeks.

They said it was a three year project to be completed by 2016.

The officials said the Erra had reconstructed buildings of 1605 educational institutions and the remaining couldn’t be rebuilt due to shortage of funds.

They said they were hopeful that 500 of the 1304 remaining schools would be reconstructed if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promise of giving Rs8 billion was fulfilled.

They said 500 schools would be reconstructed in KP and Azad Jammu and Kashmir each if the federal government released Rs8 billion.

The officials said if 500 schools were reconstructed in KP, the remaining 800 might take another decade for reconstruction due to unavailability of funds with the Erra.

“A large number of students are getting education in the schools established in the rented buildings or functioning in tents,” said a senior official of education department in Mansehra, which was the worst affected district.

He said thousands of students had also been taking classes on the ground having no shelter, particularly primary schools.

“Around 50 primary schools have been functioning without building or tents,” an official working in the district education office of Batagram told Dawn.

He said local community has also provided hujras (male guestrooms) for running the schools.

The official said the students sat under trees during the hot weather of summer, while in the chilling winter, they attended classes under sunbeams.

“During rainy season, schools without buildings remain closed till rains stop. In this way, students lose a lot of time every year. Things will continue till reconstruction of their schools,” he said.

A senior educationist said a building with students sitting on the floor couldn’t be called school.

“Every school should have proper educational environment necessary for imparting education. Building, furniture and classrooms are necessary for a school,” he said.

The educationist said the students sitting in the open couldn’t focus on the topic being taught to them by their teachers in the absence of building because the activities taking place around them by the other people disturbed their attention.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2015

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